It’s that time Ladies and Gents………our 6th Annual Cage Mock Draft Competition!!! Hard to believe it’s been 6 years. Time flies when you’re having fun. Sorry for the delay on getting it up, but it times out perfectly with the draft FINALLY only a week away. Seems like eons ago since the Falcons ended their season in misery with Matt Ryan getting sacked an eye-gouging 10 times in one football game. That came at the hands of our bitter rivals that wrapped up a 1-5 record in the NFC South. Just remembering the last time the Falcons played hits home the radically important draft coming up in a few weeks. Also, if you didn’t receive a copy of the 2014 Draft Prospects Excel Spreadsheet, then shoot an email to email@example.com and I’ll be happy to get one out to you. It really helps take a look at all the available prospects and every statistic and measurable you could want.
Direct Hits (4 Points) – If you choose the exact player the Falcons select at the exact pick, you receive 4 points. (EX) If you choose the Falcons to select Anthony Barr at pick #6 and they do just that, you receive 4 points
Correct Player (3 Points) – If you choose the correct player, but it is not the exact pick, you get 3 points. (EX) If you have the Falcons taking Calvin Pryor at pick #37, but the Falcons had to trade up and selected him at #31 you would receive 3 points
Correct Position, Correct Round, Wrong Player (2 Points) – If you select the Falcons to take the correct position in the correct round, but it’s the wrong player, you get 2 points. (EX) You have the Falcons selecting Jake Matthews (an OT) in the 1st round, but they choose Greg Robinson (a different OT) instead in the 1st round, you receive 2 points
Correct Position, Wrong Round, Wrong Player (1 Point) – This part is a sum total scoring system. For each position you have the Falcons selecting and they take a player at that position, you will receive one point per position. (EX) You have the Falcons taking 3 offensive linemen, but they selected 2. You would receive a point for each one you guessed correct (2 points in this case)
Confusing Scoring System? – The reason behind creating multiple scoring opportunities is due to the extreme unpredictability of the draft. Trying to get an exact Thomas Dimitroff draft right is like winning 3 different lotteries in a lifetime. The more chances to receive points, the better.
What the Falcons Should Do – This will of course be what would suit the Falcons best, how they could best address their issues, and how you would run the draft if you had the chance. Of course we know there’s no way in Hades that will actually happen. So….
What the Falcons Will Do - This is where you actually try to win the competition. Throw away picks, trade up 20 spots, reach for unknown players entirely too early. Essentially, you may be better off using a dart board while trying to get inside Dimitroff’s plans for the upcoming draft.
The Cage’s Meager and Futile Attempt
Jake Matthews – Offensive Tackle – Texas A&M
As hard as I tried, just couldn’t move off of original position of getting an elite offensive tackle. Many have said that Matthews may be the safest pick in the entire draft. It’s hard to argue with that one. Matthews has All-Pro written all over him and has NFL Bloodlines supremacy (father Bruce is a Hall of Famer, uncle Clay Matthews Jr a Pro Bowler, and All-World cousin Clay Matthews III). He’s roundly considered a lock to be taken in the top 5 and is at least tied with Greg Robinson as the best linemen in the draft.
Matthews can do it all and has shown as much. He played 3 seasons at right tackle earning First Team All-SEC and First Team All-American as a junior before moving over to left tackle, where he earned First Team All-SEC and Consensus All-American as a senior. He has proven that he can play both tackle spots and could immediately start at RT until the charade of Sam Baker at LT ends. The Falcons took a step by adding Jon Asamoah at RG, but they’re nowhere near finished. Matthews could be a franchise LT to protect Ryan’s blindside for the rest of his career. Some feel a pass rusher is needed more, but the offense led by Ryan gives the Falcons the best of a chance to win a Lombardi. The Falcons have been pretty good with a terrible-to-weak defense for 6 years and are much closer to being dominant on that side of the ball than they are on defense. Last game the Falcons played: 10 sacks. Enough said.
Jeremiah Attaochu – Outside Linebacker – Georgia Tech
Offensive line and pass rush are the two big ones as the Falcons roll towards the draft. Even though there’s a big hole at free safety, the idea is that the Falcons finally getting a pass rush would make that a much easier proposition. A big thought of course is that Dimitroff will trade away tons of picks to get either Jadeveon Clowney or Khalil Mack and not even possess most selections after the 1st round. Even though Clowney, Mack, and Anthony Barr are the elite pass-rushers, there’s plenty of talent in the later rounds. This one hails as a local legend only miles from the Georgia Dome.
If you’re talking about pure pass-rushers, than Jeremiah Attaochu isn’t that far behind the elite bunch. Attaochu trails only Mack, Ryan Shazier, and Kyle Van Noy in tackles for loss (43.5) and has the highest career sacks (31.5) of Division I prospects (Howard Jones has more, but plays for Shepherd University). In terms of productivity (stats divided by games), Attaochu ranks only behind Barr in terms of tackles for loss and sacks on a per game basis. He obviously doesn’t have the cover skills of a Mack or Ryan Shazier, but he’s likely not far off from guys like Barr and Clowney. Didn’t run at combine, but did run a 4.58 at his pro day, so speed shouldn’t be an issue.
Deonne Bucannon – Safety – Washington State
This seems a favorite for most mock drafts, selecting a safety in the 3rd round. The two lines seem to be the most immediate (even though the term “pass rusher” has absorbed the defensive line position). They seem to have arbitrarily cut DeCoud with no apparent plan in place. They signed Dwight Lowery and appear set to give Zeke Motta and Kemal Ishmael every chance to win the job. A 3rd round pick may not immediately have to start, but be the future. All the talk is about Ha-ha Clinton Dix, Calvin Pryor, and to a lesser extent Jimmie Ward, but the sleeper of the draft might be Buccannon.
Bucannon has the highest totals of any safety in many categories, including tackles (384) and interceptions (15), and is 3rd in tackles for loss (13.5). He had one of the better 40 times for safeties (4.49), one of the highest verticals (36.5) and was 3rd on the bench (19). This guy has playmaker written all over him and if William Moore does move to free safety as many think, Bucannon could form a dynamic duo at safety for years to come.
Daniel McCullers – Defensive Tackle – Tennessee
This has been a popular pick for many mocking the draft for the Falcons. The Falcons signed a mountain of a man in Paul Soliai. Problem is, he’s already 30 years old and he’ll be 31 at the end of this season. The Falcons really don’t have a lot of “beef” after Soliai and will need someone to groom for the future if they are in fact intent on moving more the 3-4 (Mike Smith says no, but their free agent moves say yes). If Soliai is a mountain, than McCullers would be Mount Everest or the Mariana Trench. Standing 6’7 and weighing 352 lbs, the former Vol doesn’t have the stats as you’d expect a pure plugger to have, but one problem is that many 3-4 teams will be looking for that nose tackle. McCullers played in the rough and tumble SEC for two years and would provide some much needed girth and toughness to a DL in major need of it. Fortunately for the Falcons, there’s quite a few big-bodied DT’s if McCullers is gone (Ryan Carrethers, Justin Ellis, Robert Thomas).
Arthur Lynch – Tight End – Georgia
Thomas Dimitroff said he didn’t see a replacement for Tony Gonzalez in this draft. That could be due to the fact that tight end is one of the weaker positions in the entire draft. While there’s a few elite prospects (Eric Ebron, Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins), the Falcons simply have too many other holes and priorities to take care of first. They also seemed surely intent on allowing Toilolo to just have the starting spot. Literally with no competition, since there’s no other tight ends of note on the roster. Lynch is a popular match for many mock drafters and for good reason.
This would seem to be a good spot for the Falcons to take a chance on a tight end after filling a few more important holes. Lynch will never blow your doors off, but he could be the perfect complement to Toilolo: solid blocker, decent hands and speed, more in line with the throwback TE’s instead of the new basketball-convert paradigms. He doesn’t have the stats, but some of that goes to UGA’s offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, going away from using the tight end last season. At a bare minimum, Lynch would be an excellent #2 to Toilolo, since apparently they will hand him the starting job on a platter.
Jerick McKinnon – Running Back – Georgia Southern
If you want to talk about a guy bursting with potential, then look no further than the former Georgia Southern Eagle. There may be no other single prospect that raised his chances in the combine than McKinnon. He was 2nd in the 40 with 4.41 (behind only Dri Archer – 4.26), 2nd in the vertical leap (40.5), blowing most prospects away by being 1st in bench (32), tied for 3rd in the shuttle and 3-cone drill. In short, this kid has physical tools that coaches and GMs dream of in their profession.
Not only that, he also had an amazing career while at Georgia Southern as well (remember the team that beat the once might Florida Gators in Gainesville?). He ranked 6th among all running backs in career rushing yards (3,998), 5th in touchdowns (42), and 5th in yards per reception. McKinnon seems like the total package and at 5’9, 209 lbs he could deliver a mean punch.
Jeff Janis – Wide Receiver – Saginaw Valley State
Most immediately discard Janis due to his small school ties. That would be a major mistake. Even though he’s from a small school and conference, take a look at his career numbers. 4,305 receiving yards (1st among all receivers) and 46 receiving TDs (also 1st among all receivers). Even though he has more yards and TDs than any other prospect, most would say that he couldn’t adjust to the pro game. Then take a look at his combine numbers.
He’s 6’3, 219 lbs, ran a 4.42 forty (tied for 5th), benched 20 reps (tied for 3rd), jumped 37.5 in the vertical (tied for 7th), 3.98 in the shuttle (tied for 5th), and ran a 6.64 in the 3 cone drill (3rd). In short, he showed that he’s top among all receivers not just in production, but also in athletic ability. The Falcons are pretty set at receiver, but Janis can do it all. With Roddy White aging, Janis could really push the younger guys (Drew Davis and Darius Johnson) for a roster spot and possibly even playing time.
Russell Bodine – Offensive Line – North Carolina
The former Tar Heel may not last this long, but he would be welcome addition to a team in major search of toughness. He had the record for most reps by any prospect (42) at the 2014 scouting combine. He also added one of the better 40 times and earned second in the vertical jump among all interior linemen. Bodine could compete for guard or center and likely would be fighting just for a practice squad spot, but he Bodine did over double the amount of bench reps that former starting center, Peter Konz, did (18).
Jonathan Dowling – Safety – Western Kentucky
As Dimitroff showed this time last year, he’s liable to do anything towards the end of the draft. Last year, he used his last 3 picks on a 2 safeties and a quarterback. Even if the Falcons draft one safety, that will still only give them 5 total safeties in camp, and just one of them is considered a true free safety (Dwight Lowery). Dowling would be an excellent low risk / high reward pick to take at this point
At 6’3, 190, he’s got some bulking up to do, but he actually had the highest productivity in terms of interceptions per game (1st) and passes defensed per game (1st). He only played 2 years at Western Kentucky, but he made the most of it. He also had one of the best 40 times (4.52), shuttle, and 3-cone times of any safety in the draft. He’d definitely be a project, but he has serious potential and upside.
Andrew Jackson – Inside Linebacker – Western Kentucky
Inside linebackers are some of the least glamorous positions to be drafted in the NFL Draft. Everyone wants flash and sizzle, but the bricks and mortars of teams come in the inside, specifically of the throwback, tackling machine ilk. If the Falcons are moving to a 3-4, they will need to add some pieces to the 3-4 ILB, where they have only Paul Worrilow, Sean Weatherspoon, Akeem Dent, and perhaps Joplo Bartu available. While Jackson won’t confuse anyone with Patrick Willis, he came in 2nd in tackles per game among all ILBs, and 1st overall in terms of tackles for a loss. Would be an excellent prospect to mold into a 3-4 ILB.
Falcons trade their 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and next year’s first round draft picks to the Houston Texans for DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Jadeveon Clowney – Defensive End – South Carolina
No explanation needed.
4th Round – Compensatory
Tony Palepoi – Defensive Tackle – Utah
Jerome Smith – Running Back – Syracuse
Jeremy Gallon – Wide Receiver – Michigan
Kaleb Ramsey – Defensive End – Boston College
7th Round – Compensatory #1
Wesley Johnson – Offensive Tackle – Vanderbilt
7th Round – Compensatory #2
Nat Berhe – Safety – San Diego State